Since the Beijing Olympic games of 2008, I have not been able to import any Olive Pitt Charcoal from China. I was in dire need of that second best alternative. Through the long 6 months of searching, I have yet to find the second best charcoal, but have good results in what I should look for.
Hardwood charcoal is widely available at an affordable price compared to Olive Pitt Charcoal. There are many types of wood, and each type has its own aroma, density, ash production and maximum temperature, on top of these variables, the maker is also an important factor. How much carbonation is done to the wood, parts of the tree, miscellaneous contents (stones, whacky stuff that aren't wood), percentage of dust and fannings are also factors one should consider when choosing a bag of charcoal for under $10. Sounds like a bit too picky for something so insignificant in terms of financial value eh? Well, if you use charcoal on a daily basis like I do, you'll find out the benefit of good charcoal.
Good hardwood should be heavy and dense:
Bad stuff: tree barks and harden liquid stuff means low carbonation, there are still lots organic materials left in the wood which can cause LOTS smoke and unpleasant odor that could stink up your house, clothes, hair and skin for hours.
Fluffy looking charcoal:
Same piece on left, does not burn well:All that just for a cup of good tea!
Want to know more about charcoal? http://www.nakedwhiz.com/lump.htm